The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Quwain. The official language of business is English and around 85% of the population are expats.
Whilst opportunities for work exist in each of the seven emirates, the majority are to be found in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The cost of living is expensive but is matched by high standards, meaning you get good value for money.
The culture is largely Islamic, and it is important to respect local laws and customs to avoid penalisation. For example, sexual relations outside of marriage are illegal, as are same-sex unions. Alcohol may only be consumed with a licence and women should dress modestly in public spaces. Both swearing and kissing in public are also arrestable offences.
The UAE economy is currently strong and has seen unparalleled growth in recent years. Major local industries include:
• Ship repair
There are several skills shortages listed in the UAE, many of which are in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. Having recently introduced VAT, there is also a high demand for tax specialists.
Many expats find work in the UAE via international companies in their home countries and this is a great option as it is best to secure work before you move. Alternatively, numerous vacancies in the UAE are advertised via recruitment agencies or online. Some of these may specify that applicants fulfil certain age or gender requirements; whilst this may be unusual in your home country, it is perfectly acceptable practice in the UAE.
Networking is an important way to find work in the UAE but can be almost impossible from outside the region. However, once resident in one of the emirates, it can be a good way to gain promotion.
Speculative applications are welcome but only usually successful if you have strong personal links to or contacts within the company. Most applications are made online using an application form or CV. Attaching a short cover letter and photograph is best practice. Keep your CV brief, factual and interesting to stand out from the crowd. Most job offers are made following a face-to-face interview and medical examination.
Short-term contracts are commonplace in the UAE, particularly in the construction, oil and tourism sectors. Temporary work may be available in hospitality sectors of places such as Dubai, which welcome vast numbers of tourists each year.
Volunteering opportunities in the UAE are limited and often only available in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You can search for opportunities at volunteers.ae.
There are many teaching jobs available in the UAE, despite English being the main second language. If you hold a TEFL or TESOL qualification, you will be able to find work in schools, colleges, universities and language centres. Some school jobs may also require the applicant to have a degree or PGCE.
Visas for visiting the UAE are issued on arrival for all UK citizens; these are valid for 30 days. The emirate you are residing in can then extend the visa for a further 30 days, up to three days before its expiry date. At the end of this extended period, you must then leave the country, unless you find employer sponsorship during your stay. Your passport must also have at least six months validity from the date you enter the country.
In order to work in the UAE, you must be sponsored by an employer – you cannot work on a tourist visa. Upon acceptance of a job offer, your employer will apply for a residency visa on your behalf. Once granted, you will then be able to apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Labour. It is illegal to work without this permit.
Residency visas are subject to a medical examination. Those who test positive for conditions such as HIV and hepatitis will be deported.
It is important to remember to cancel your work visa before permanently leaving the UAE; failure to do so could result in your being reported as an absconder. This would lead to you being arrested upon return to the country.
While your work visa is being processed, you will need to submit your medical records, passport, photo, job offer letter and visa application to the Department of Health and Medical Services. Once processed, you will be issued with a health card. You will also need a labour card, which involves sending your passport, photo, employment contract, entry visa, medical records and your employer’s labour licence to the Ministry of Labour.
The main language of the UAE is Arabic, with English, Hindi, Persian and Urdu all widely spoken. As the number of expats in the country has grown, English has become more commonly used and is now the language of business. Understanding Arabic is not essential but would greatly improve your job prospects.
Full-time employers in the UAE typically work five 8-hour shifts in succession each week. However, unlike in much of the Western world, the working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday the standard rest days. Working hours are reduced during Ramadan.
There are nine public holidays in the UAE, though the dates for some of these change year by year. These include:
• New Year’s Day
• Ascension Day
• Eid Al Fitr
• Arafat Day
• Eid Al Adha
• Al Hijri
• Birthday of Prophet Mohammad
• Commemoration Day
• National Day
Employees are also entitled to 30 days of annual leave after completing their first year in a job.
All foreign visitors entering the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must obtain a visa prior to arrival, unless they are a national from a visa-exempt country. Citizens from member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can enjoy freedom of movement within the UAE, with the exception of citizens from Qatar (unless they are a family member of a resident).
Visitors coming to the UAE will require a minimum validity on their passport of six months. GCC nationals, except Qataris, only need to show government ID or a driving license in order to travel between any of the member countries. If you’re simply transiting through the UAE, and are not passing through immigration, then your passport only needs to have a minimum validity of three months.
Citizens from some countries will qualify for a visa on arrival, which will allow them to stay in the UAE for up to 30 days. It is possible to extend this type of visa a maximum of two times. This will add an additional 30 days onto your visa, without you needing to leave the country. Some foreign nationals may be eligible for visit visas on a multiple-entry basis for up to 180 days.
Security measures in Dubai International Airport include conducting eye screenings at random. Visitors who are taken for eye screenings are also required to present a hard copy of their visa or, at the very least, a printed version of their visa number. Failure to produce this will result in a charge of AED30.
In order to apply for a UAE visa, many expatriates will need an entry permit (also called a pink card). This can be sponsored by your place of work, or by a family member who is a citizen or permanent resident of the UAE. Once in the UAE, expatriates can apply for residence visas and work permits.
The majority of expats arriving in the UAE have an offer of employment prior to applying for any visas or permits. Usually, the UAE companies hiring them will handle all employment visa and work permit requirements. Employment visas can last anywhere between one and 10 years, depending on the contract and how in demand the candidate’s skills and experience are.
You should cancel your employment visa before you leave the country permanently. Otherwise, you could potentially be reported as an absconder, and you could even be arrested if you ever return to the UAE, even if you are transiting through the airport to another country. Other reasons for arrest upon return include failure to repay debts and leaving the country with any outstanding legal cases against you.
The investment visa is designed for people who open new businesses in the UAE (including offshore territories of the UAE), or for those who purchase property in the country. A minimum investment of AED70,000 is required to qualify for an investment visa. Applicants who wish to obtain an investment visa through investing in a company cannot work for any other company. A 10-year visa is offered to people who invest a minimum of AED10 million.
If you intend to make an application for a residence visa, you will have to take a mandatory blood test. Applicants who test positive for HIV or Hepatitis will be detained and consequently deported. Unfortunately, there is no appeal process in this instance.
Employers and employees who hold a valid UAE residence visa can sponsor residence visas for their families. The only prerequisite is that the sponsor earns a minimum salary of AED 4,000 or AED 3,000 plus accommodation. In addition, any sponsored relatives over the age of 18 years old will be required to complete a medical fitness test.
If you are aged 55 or over and meet the specified criteria, you will be eligible for a five-year retirement visa. You will need to have a property investment of at least AED 2 million, savings of at least AED 1 million, or a monthly income of at least AED 20,000.
Expatriate students over the age of 18 years old, who wish to study in or who reside in the UAE, qualify for student visas. Outstanding students can also qualify for a long-term visa for up to five years. You will need proof of acceptance/enrollment in order to apply for a student visa, and will also be required to pass a medical fitness test. Proof of sufficient funds or a guarantor will be needed too.
As mentioned above, some nationalities will require a tourist visa and some will not. This type of visa does not entitle you to work; doing so is illegal and those found working on a tourist visa (instead of an employment visa) and without a valid work permit will be heavily fined, imprisoned, or deported.
Foreign visitors who wish to stay in the UAE for more than 14 days (depending on nationality), or who are coming to visit family members or for business purposes other than commerce, can apply for visit visas. This type of visa is valid for either 30 days (short-term visit visa) or 90 days (long-term visit visa). Both types of visit visa are non-renewable.
Your work permit will be in tandem with your residence visa. You must apply for your residence visa first, before you can obtain your work permit. Your employer should be able to give you a breakdown of the process.
The UAE work permit (also known as a Labour Card) is processed and issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE). Applications are typically filed by your employer on your behalf. A standard work permit is usually valid for a period of up to two years on a renewable basis.
If you have entered Dubai on a tourist visa and wish to find work, you will need to apply for a temporary work permit. A temporary work permit is valid for a period of up to three months and is issued by the Ministry of Labour.
Aside from the residence visa, which is essentially a form of temporary/short-term residency, investors and those with special skills can get longer residence visas of either five or 10 years, both of which are renewable. The 10-year residency visa is often referred to as “The Golden Card” scheme. Foreigners may also become eligible for permanent residency under special circumstances, or after quite a long wait.
A foreign national who marries an Emirati can get citizenship, providing the marriage lasts for at least three years. In some cases, women can also gain citizenship through their father if they are dependants and not married.
If you intend to live in the UAE permanently, and are not able to qualify for the five- or 10-year visa, you may wish to become a citizen. The UAE does not recognise dual citizenship, so if you go down this route, it will mean revoking your citizenship of your home country.
There is another way to obtain citizenship, which is through a residency required period for naturalisation, which is currently 30 years. This means living and working continuously in the UAE for the entirety of this period.
In nearly all circumstances, you will have to prove that you speak an adequate level of Arabic.
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Renting is commonplace in the UAE. However, expats can still expect to spend nearly half their salary on rent alone. UAE rental contracts typically last for one year, and incur a hefty fine if broken.
You should only use registered agents. In Dubai, ask to see the agent’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) card, which will confirm that they are acting in a legal capacity and are not freelancing – freelancing is illegal in the UAE. If you are using an agent, you should expect to pay them a fee, which is normally 5% of the yearly rent cost. The agent is responsible for handling the paperwork and the contracts.
When you find a property you are happy with, you will normally be expected to provide a copy of your passport, proof of residency (or proof that your residency is in process), a marriage certificate if you are married, and a work contract/salary certificate. At this point, you will be expected to pay a percentage of the annual rent to the landlord as a deposit.
The deposit, paid in one cheque, amounts to 5% of the annual rent for an unfurnished property, or 10% of the annual rent for a furnished property. This deposit will be returned when you vacate the property, once you have settled all your utility bills.
In Dubai, a legal contract should be registered through Ejari, a system designed to regulate and facilitate the local rental market. The contract should clearly state what the landlord’s responsibilities are, as well as the tenant’s. Although this is the landlord’s responsibility, it is usually the tenant who pays for the costs, unless an agreement is made otherwise. The fee for a new or renewed residential application is Dh220. Once registered with Ejari, the contract cannot be changed by the landlord.
Include all the details of the security deposit in the agreement, and make sure you get a receipt upon payment. The agreement should specify that the security deposit will be refunded to the tenant within an agreed timespan, once the tenancy has ended, the tenant has moved out, the bills have been settled, the property has been delivered to the landlord and the Ejari registration has been cancelled.
You will also be expected to provide several post-dated cheques; however, this requirement varies from landlord to landlord. It is important to ensure the contract clearly states when the cheques will be submitted, and you should photocopy them as proof of what you have provided. Please note that it is illegal to bounce a cheque in the UAE, and you could face arrest and detention if one is submitted when you don’t have adequate funds to cover the cost.
In Abu Dhabi, there is mandatory registration of tenancy contracts through a system known as Tawtheeq. Through a database for all short-term tenancy contracts, this registration system safeguards the rights of landlords and tenants.
A move-in permit may be required by a property manager or owners’ association. To apply for a move-in permit, you will need your tenancy and Ejari documents. After you have applied, the owners’ association / community management will usually require confirmation from your landlord via email.
The permit will include access to the service lifts in towers, and parking closer to the lifts/building. If you are moving into a gated community, you should confirm whether a move-in permit is required to allow removal trucks to enter. Your leasing agent should be able to guide you, and coordinate with the landlord / building manager. A move-out permit is also required at the end of your tenancy to vacate the property/building.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly, or that your landlord/agent has acted inappropriately, in Dubai, you could consider approaching RERA, as they will be able to look at your contract and provide you with specific advice. If you have a problem in one of the other six emirates, you will need to contact your local municipality.
Expats looking for short-term rentals should check whether they are renting during the high or low tourist season, or over a holiday, as this may affect the price. Solo expats often look for shared housing. Be aware that Sharia law does not allow for unmarried men and women to live together, even if they have different bedrooms. When it comes to expats and non-Muslims, authorities largely turn a blind eye, but be aware that you are taking a risk.
There are designated areas in the UAE where foreign nationals can buy property.
Dubai Law states that you can buy:
• A leasehold property
• A freehold property in one of the 23 freehold areas, including Al Barsha South, Emirates Hills, Jebel Ali, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali
Those who are not Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals, i.e. people who are not from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman or Saudi Arabia, are able to buy leasehold and freehold property in designated investment zones in Abu Dhabi. These zones include Yas Island, Reem Island, Saadiyat Island, Raha Beach, Al Reef Village and more.
In the northern emirates, non-residents can make freehold and leasehold purchases in Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, Ajman and Umm al Quwain. Most of the available property tends to be on a leasehold basis.
Buying property that is being resold in the emirates is straightforward. You find a property and place a formal offer, normally through an agent. If the offer is accepted, then a deposit should be paid (usually 10%). You will also be expected to pay a transfer fee and estate agent fees.
Buying an off-plan property, though, is more common in the UAE. You should contact the relevant authorities in the respective emirate to complete your research about the developer and the project, before making any decision about buying. Charges for developers differ from emirate to emirate, and you may need to pay increments on a regular basis until the project is completed. You will also be expected to pay a premium, which is normally a percentage of the original price, and a transfer fee. You should confirm this before entering into a contract, and check for any hidden costs, as well as for information on what will happen if the project is not completed on time.
In Dubai, an Oqood fee is also paid by the buyer to the developer of the property, and this is equal to 4% of the original price of the property. To help safeguard the buyer and the developer when transactions are being made, the Dubai Land Department has an Escrow Account Service.
Non-UAE residents can get a mortgage from lenders operating in the UAE; however, there are some restrictions. The UAE mortgage cap law requires non-UAE nationals to have a cash down payment of at least 25% of the property value, plus associated purchase costs. This goes up to 35%, plus costs, for properties above AED 5 million. And if you’re buying a second or third property, as an investment, for example, you’ll need at least 40% of the property value to cover your down payment.
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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QUICK LINK: United Arab Emirates health insurance
If your employer provides you with health insurance cover, they will issue you with the documentation you need. If your employer does not offer cover, and you are not a UAE citizen, you will need to arrange private cover since the Emirates’ national health insurance schemes will not be open to you.
If you are a UAE citizen living in Abu Dhabi, you will need to go for a Weqaya screening via the Department of Health. This is a comprehensive medical checkup that will identify any risk factors you may face. You can then visit the Tamm website, where you can download a Thiqa form. Once you have filled this in and sent it back, you will receive a Thiqa card and you can then register with a local doctor.
If you are a UAE citizen living in Dubai, you will need to visit a Saada enrolment center and request to join the scheme. They will ask you to fill out a form and bring in some identification: usually your passport and proof of address. Once you have enrolled, the details of your Saada scheme will be added to your Emirates ID card, and you will need to take this card along with you to any medical appointments.
Opening a bank account in the UAE is an easy process for foreigners. Expats can hold personal accounts and even take out loans from UAE banks. There are many financial institutions that cater to expats in the UAE.
The Arab Dirham is the official currency of the United Arab Emirates. The Central Bank of the UAE controls the monetary policy of the country. Expats are not allowed to open current accounts except under special circumstances. However, they can open savings accounts and use these for financial transactions.
The UAE has over 50 established local and international banks. Barclays Bank, Citi Bank, and Standard Chartered have branches in the UAE. Lloyd TSB and HSBC also have branches here.
Local banks are quite reliable as well and provide expedient financial services. However, local banks are a bit stricter on expats seeking financial services from them. Have all the necessary documents ready when seeking credit or opening an account in the UAE. This will make opening an account with local banks faster.
Tips for opening a bank account in the UAE
Many expats prefer opening accounts at international banks they are familiar with. This makes it easier for them to make international transactions. However, it is also possible to open a local account.
It is important that you first research local banks in the UAE and the types of services they offer. Find out if the local bank has a good reputation and if you can withdraw money from it at any time. In addition, determine if the bank offers financial services like check books, personal loans, or international money transfers. Make sure you compare several bank accounts before settling for one. You can also get referrals for potential banks from expat friends.
If you are moving to the UAE for work, it is important that you establish payment terms with your employer in advance. This will make it easier for your employer to credit your existing bank account with money.
Foreigners are not allowed to open current accounts except under special circumstances. Local banks will only process a current account with the help of your employer. For the self-employed expat, a native UAE citizen may act as your referee.
It is advisable to make early arrangements about salary payments with your employer. The UAE employer can assist in processing a local current account on your behalf. Start the current account opening procedure several weeks in advance. Local UAE banks take their time to approve current accounts for expats.
You do not need many personal documents to open an account in the UAE. Most local banks will only ask for your passport, residency visa, and proof of address. Sometimes banks will request past bank statements or referral letters. Local banks also regard a drivers license as legal proof of identification.
Banking Procedure in the UAE
Arab Emirate Dirham is the official legal tender that can be obtained in banking halls and cash points. Most UAE banks also allow financial transactions in Dollars and Euros. Ask your local bank about the currencies they consider as legal tender. This will make it easier for you to conduct financial transactions while in the UAE.
All banks in the UAE open from Saturday to Thursday. The official banking hours are from 8am to 2pm. ATMs and other cash withdrawal points remain open for 24 hours. Most banks conduct their financial transactions in English.
The Central Bank of the UAE regulates all fees levied by local banks to their clients. However, some transactions are dictated by organizations that are not under the control of the Central Bank. In such cases, the local bank will have their own rates, which often vary from bank to bank.
Ensure you are aware of all charges levied on any transaction you make, especially if you will be sending or receiving money into or out of the UAE. Local banks calculate all banking fees using the latest foreign exchange rates.
Loan application process in the UAE
Local banks do allow foreigners to apply for loans. An expat can apply for mortgage, car, and even salary advances from their local bank. UAE banks will process car loans faster than other loans.
To be eligible for a loan, an expat has to prove that they are either on salary or self-employed. Employed foreigners have to present their latest salary certificate or pay slip. They will also need to have been employed for at least 3 years before the loan application. Banks also request a personal bank statement from the applicant. This statement outlines all financial transactions made for a period of 6 months.
Expats running their own businesses are required to present a valid trade license to the bank. Local banks also ask for a business bank statement showing past business transactions, a 2-year audit report, and a business Memorandum of Association.
Every bank loan request requires a copy of the expat’s Emirates ID card. If an Emirate ID is not available, a copy of your passport will do. Some banks will also ask for a residency visa as proof of residency.
Expats should clear all debts and financial obligations while in the UAE. UAE financial laws are strict and mistakes like defaulting on a loan can land you in jail. Issuing bounced checks is also a crime that is punishable by imprisonment.
Only make a financial transaction that you are sure of paying off. Ensure you have money in your bank account before processing any car or house loan. Checks are often used for paying bills in the UAE. Make sure you have money ready in your account when issuing a post-dated check.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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If you are going out to the Emirates, a federation of seven Arabic states, to live and work, you may be wondering how easy it will be to navigate work and social life in the country: will you need to learn the local language, and which languages are spoken here? Will you be able to get by in English? We will look at some of your questions below.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely spoken in this Gulf state, partly because it is a lingua franca for the number of expats from all over the world and partly because of British colonial influences in the region. Dubai’s population is around 75% expat and you will hear many other languages beside English and Arabic, such as Bengali, Farsi, Irdi, Tamil, Filipino and Malay. The Gulf state is a multicultural society and this is reflected in the rich linguistic tapestry of the country. Farsi is particularly prevalent due to the large Iranian expat community here, and so is Hindi, also due to a big expat community from India.
English is taught in schools and road signs in the country are in Arabic and English.
Arabic itself takes various forms and is spoken by almost 200 million people in more than 22 countries. It is the official language of the other 21 countries that along with Saudi Arabia make up the Arab League. Classical Arabic has remained unchanged for centuries: it is the language in which the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, and Arab literature is written. Spoken Arabic varies from country to country and you will find variations across the Gulf, such as Qatari Arabic.
Thus the Arabic used in the UAE is Modern Standard Arabic (Al Fus-Ha, sometimes referred to as Fusha, Al Arabiya or High Arabic), which is used for government communications and media. Gulf Arabic is spoken widely throughout the Emirates and beyond. Both forms of the language are found throughout the Gulf States and will be of use to you if you are travelling in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
You may have an interest in learning Standard Arabic, which is taught in the country, but this is perhaps more useful if you are going to be reading a lot of communications in Arabic. It is the language learned by scholars who want to read literary and religious texts, although it is widely spoken and may also be of use if you are travelling throughout the Gulf generally and not just in the UAE itself. However, if you are going to be based in the UAE and want to speak a language that is readily understood on the street, then Gulf Arabic is probably more suitable. Remember that you will need to master the Arabic alphabet first.
Shihhi Arabic is also spoken in the UAE and in neighbouring Oman.
Even though English is spoken widely, it is advised that you take a good phrasebook with you and do not rely on digital methods such as translation apps on your phone: more rural or remote areas may not have total wifi or mobile signal coverage.
You will find plenty of provision for Arabic classes in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and elsewhere. The Arabic Language Centre in Dubai, for instance, provides language courses in simplified Modern Standard Arabic and the spoken language, beginners to advanced levels. You can choose if you would like to do a group course, or a private one, and the Centre teaches Business Arabic as well. Classes follow a communicative, task-based methodology, integrating the four language skills, with a focus on spoken Arabic.
The Eton Institute teaches Arabic in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and also offer ‘Live Online’ Arabic language courses. EF also runs Arabic classes in Internet City and at the Hult International Business school campus, and you can combine language courses with other studies such as cultural programmes.
English teachers are required in the UAE despite the prevalance of the English language: the presence of a large number of expats from other non-English speaking countries ensures that there is still a market for English language teaching. You will be at a greater advantage if you have a university degree as well as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
Check if your employer has affiliations with a language provider or if in-house classes are run in Arabic. You can also enquire at the local university: some offer Arabic language classes with a focus on integrating foreign and Emirati students.
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or business and finance.
Salaries in the UAE are high, US$2500 – 5500 per month, and it is a popular destination for TEFL teachers who want to make money. Many contracts are 2-3 years in length, and some have a bonus of one month’s salary per year worked. Some employers will also include accommodation, flights, health insurance and education allowances for your dependents. Because this is such a popular destination for teachers, it is thus very competitive: your chances are better here according to how qualified and experienced you are. You are most likely to find work in vocational schools, private language schools and colleges.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is taught in the country’s schools and is widely spoken here, partly because it is a lingua franca for the large number of expats who come to the Emirates from all over the world and partly because of British colonial influences in the region.
Education in the UAE is currently being further developed, via the Ministry of Education’s three-year plan “Education 2021.” This is designed to emphasise advanced education techniques, improve innovative skills, and develop students’ ability to instruct themselves. In 2010 the Abu Dhabi Education Council developed the New School Model, a critical-thinking oriented curriculum modeled on the educational system of Australia’s New South Wales.
The public education system is compulsory from the age of five and is divided into four tiers:
• kindergarten: KG 1 and KG 2, ages 4–5
• primary school: Grade 1–6, ages 6–11
• preparatory stage: Grade 7–9, ages 12–14
• secondary school: Grade 9–12, ages 15–17
At the end of secondary education students will be awarded with either a Secondary School Leaving Certificate or Technical Secondary Diploma.
Currently the country underperforms in the OECD PISA rankings, with below average results across a range of subjects. However, one of the aims of Education 2021 is to improve the UAE’s PISA ratings and boost the country into the upper levels of the ranking system.
There are no co-educational schools in the public sector. Although the UAE is a traditional Islamic state, the country has placed an emphasis in recent years on the education of girls, but schools are still segregated by sex. There is also a strong religious component to public education in the country. The language of instruction is Arabic, and although there is a strong emphasis on learning English as a second language, parents who do not have bilingual children usually enrol their children in private English-speaking education.
You will find a number of English-speaking private and international schools in the UAE.
In Abu Dhabi, the Department of Education and Knowledge oversees and licenses private schools. From September 2008, all private schools have been required to register with the Department and must be inspected annually via the Irtiqa’a programme.
In Dubai the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is responsible for the growth, direction, inspection and quality of private education and learning. The Ministry of Education (MoE) issues licenses to these schools. The KHDA runs a website which can advise you in the choice of private sector schools in the region. In the Northern Emirates accreditation and licensing of all schools in both private and public sectors is conducted by the Ministry of Education (MoE).
Schools in the UAE offer 17 different curricula. You will find provision which teaches a variety of curricula from the British national curriculum, including the International Baccalaureate and American syllabi, among others.
You may find that you need to make one-off or regular payments such as capitalisation fees or enrolment fees: these can vary, so check with the school and make sure that you are aware of what you are paying. You may be able to pay in termly instalments. Check if there are any sibling reductions.
Enrolment policies will vary from school to school, but your child may be asked to take a proficiency test (for example in English or maths). You can also check the accreditation of your selected school: for instance, with organisations such as COBIS (the Council of British International Schools) or the organisations mentioned above.
For instance, the Abu Dhabi International Private School offers education based on American, British and International Baccalaureate curricula, leading to ACT, AP, A-levels, IGCSE, TOEFL, and SAT and SAT Subjects Tests, IB Diploma Programme, and other achievement tests. Fees are in an annual range from US$8K – 13K.
The Creative British School is based on the British national curriculum and will lead to IGCSE and A Level. Fees are around US$2K – 5K per annum.
The Al Dhafra Private School teaches an American curriculum based on the Virginia State Standard and the British national curriculum, to children from the ages of 4 – 18. Fees are from US$7K – 13K per year.
The British International School teaches from 3 – 18, also on the British national curriculum, and fees range from US$14K – 19K per annum.
You will also find a wide choice in Dubai, where schools similarly focus on the British, American and IB curricula among others.
For example, The Apple International School, established in 1994, teaches ages 3 – 15 on the British national curriculum and fees range from US$2K – 5K per year.
The Universal American School teaches 3 – 18 year olds on American and IB curricula. Fees are around US$10K – 21K per year.
The Raffles World Academy is an authorised World School for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), and also offers the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Cambridge Secondary 1(CS1) and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). They teach ages from 4 – 18 and fees range from US$8K – 24K per year.
Homeschooling is legal in the UAE but heavily regulated. According to the Ministry of Education, the homeschooling system applies to students whose age exceeds the maximum age limit for admission in public schools. The home-schooling stream accepts students only from classes 7 to 12. For Grade 7, admission is accepted from the age of 14. At the end of the year or at the end of the semester, the student will sit for class exams as set by the Assessment and Examinations Department and the Continuous Learning Department of the MoE. The successful completion of a home-school education in the UAE is equivalent to graduation from any regular public school in the UAE.